Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1-2a
Do you remember the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013? I sure do. I grew up in Massachusetts, just two towns over from where the marathon starts. I have fond memories of being a spectator cheering on the runners when I was in high school. I wasn’t a runner then, but I am now. I have run a number of races, including seven full marathons. Not the Boston Marathon, but, still, I am a marathon runner, which made me take this attack even more personally. I still remember the shocking news that there were bombs that exploded near the finish line. I was saddened to learn of the three people who died, including a child, and angry to hear that this vicious attack caused some to lose their legs in the explosion.
But this bombing also reminded me of what a gift it is to be able to run or to walk – something that I often taken for granted, but shouldn’t. There are days when I would rather not go out for a run, which is probably true for many of us, but then I remind myself of what a gift it is that I can run. Every step we take, at whatever speed we take it, is a gift.
I was reminded of this in a vivid way back when I would visit a member of my previous church. Bobby had to have both of his legs amputated below the knee, but he was truly an inspiration. When I would leave after visiting him, it was always with two things on my mind. First, how much I admired his faith and attitude. He worked hard at his physical therapy, was cheerful and kind to all those around him, and looked forward to the day when he could get his prosthetic legs so that he can dance with his wife! He was truly amazing. He is now with the Lord, but Bobby was able to walk into our church on his own and dance with his wife before he finished his earthly race. The second thing that I would think about after visiting with Bobby was just how grateful I was that I still had the use of my legs, and that I was still able to walk and run. I try not to take that for granted. And when I do, even now, I think of Bobby.
But here’s the uncomfortable truth, too, that I try not to forget. There will come a day when I will not be able to run. Perhaps not even walk. Jesus reminded Peter of this when he talked with him on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after his resurrection. He said to Peter:
When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt and take you where you do not wish to go.John 21:18
If I am blessed with a long life, I will grow old, and I will be taken where I do not wish to go. What then? Since Peter is the one who first heard this difficult truth spoken to him by Jesus, I will let Peter answer that question:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead … In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.1 Peter 1:3-7
In sickness and in health we can rejoice, Peter reminds us. And we need to be reminded. Because in sickness, we can find it hard to rejoice, and in health, we are prone to simply forget. Every walk or run is a gift and a blessing, no matter how hard it is or how badly it goes. In this we rejoice, even when we find ourselves suffering various trials.
There are a lot of people going through trials in our world right now. You may be one of them. The truth is that we all will, at some point or another. Our faith will be tested by fire. But thanks be to God that we have a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection. And this living hope is something that no bombing or illness can ever take away. As I continue to run my race of faith, wherever it takes me, I give thanks to God for this promise. And I hope never to take it for granted. For just like running or walking, every step taken in the promise of this hope is truly a gift from God. So let us all continue to run faith’s race, running “with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”